Central African Republic: the constitutional referendum, open door to a 3rd term of President Touadéra?
It is now official, there will be a referendum on a new Constitution in the Central African Republic, on July 30. President Touadéra announced this Tuesday, May 30 in a message to the nation. "Nothing is above the sovereign people. The people are above the Constitution," the Central African president said. He believes that the current text, which dates from 2016, "contains provisions that could compromise the development" of the country.
President Faustin-Archange Touadéra during his inauguration in Bangui on March 30, 2021 (Illustration image). AP - Adrienne Surprenant
Text by: RFI Follow
This announcement is not a surprise, it has been more than a year that the subject on the table. From the political dialogue of March 2022, organizations close to the authorities will lead campaigns to demand a change of the Constitution, at the end of May, deputies of the majority table a reform bill, with a publicly announced objective: to break the lock on the number of presidential terms.
On August 13, for Independence Day, Faustin-Archange Touadéra takes up the subject. "I cannot remain indifferent to the cries of the heart of my people, who are the custodians par excellence of sovereign power," he said, before setting up a drafting committee for a new Basic Law.
But on September 23, the knife falls: the Constitutional Court invalidates the procedure. Its president, Danièle Darlan, was forced to retire at the end of October. A "punishment", says the one who has been under threat and pressure for months, including from Russian officials. Finally, at the end of December, the Assembly adopted a law specifying the modalities for organising a referendum, this time validated by the Court. Meanwhile, organizations close to the authorities continue to mobilize on the subject.
A demonstration was already announced for Wednesday, May 31 in the morning in Bangui, at the call of the presidential party, United Heart Movements (MCU) and its allies. Initially to ask for this referendum, and finally to express support for the head of state.
"The Central African people today have understood that the 2016 Constitution deserves to be rewritten, because the 2016 Constitution was fabricated. There were weapons, there was tension, which influenced those who had drafted the 2016 Constitution... »
Central African Republic: pro-referendum demonstration in Bangui - feature story
Rolf Steve Domia-leu
The new text, which must be submitted to voters, is not yet known. "In the coming days, you will be discussed on the main reforms proposed," concluded Faustin-Archange Touadéra. Sources in Bangui say the text has been ready for several months, even before the drafting committee was invalidated in September.
Thecalling of this referendum is illegal" for the opposition
The promoters of the reform want to remove transitional provisions of 2016, strengthen the executive power to make the state "more efficient", review the modalities of appointment of constitutional judges, and put an end to "budget-hungry institutions" such as the High Council of Communication. But for opponents, this reform has in reality only one goal: to reset the counter of presidential mandates, and thus allow Faustin-Archange Touadéra to run for a third in 2025. Crépin MBoli-Goumba is the coordinator of the Republican Bloc for the Defence of the Constitution (BRDC)
It is first and foremost the liquidation of democracy and therefore, apart from democracy and the Constitution, it is power for life. He wants to stay in power and that suits a lot of people's business. It's not a surprise, but it's mostly illegal. As you know, the Constitutional Court had already declared the organisation of a referendum illegal for several reasons. So calling this referendum is just as illegal, he believes. Since President Touadéra says that the people are above everything, the people must decide. We will therefore have recourse to the people of the Central African Republic. There are ways that are planned, including demonstrations, sit-ins. We will explore all legal avenues available to us to be able to defend the Constitution and defend democracy in our country.»
There are also obstacles to overcome to organize this referendum. The obstacles are technical. In the middle of the rainy season, how to organize this consultation in a country without infrastructure? This seems all the more delicate since MINUSCA, the UN Mission in the Central African Republic, has already said that it will not support a referendum process.
The obstacles are financial, too: the national electoral authority had failed to raise the necessary funds to organize the local elections scheduled for July 16. So how do you finance a referendum opposed by most of the international community? The question is asked. In any case this morning, the president of the ANE gathered his collaborators to announce the temporary suspension of preparations for local elections to make way for the organization of the constitutional referendum.
► Read also: Central African Republic: President Touadéra announces a constitutional referendum
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- Central African Republic
- Faustin-Archange Touadéra